A Doctor Who Cake to Light Up My Daughter’s Birthday

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Copyright 2013 – Sweet Dreams Cake App/Michelle Davis – All Rights Reserved

My oldest daughter turned 15 a couple of weeks ago. This was a pretty exciting year for me because it is the first time since she was quite young that she requested I make her a birthday cake. She really doesn’t care much for cake (I guess because I have been decorating cakes her whole life and she is probably sick of them) so she usually asks for pie or other nontraditional birthday desserts. I was determined to make this cake special. She is a huge Doctor Who fan. When I say huge, I mean she has seen every episode ever made, several times; she speaks about the characters like they are her actual friends; she gets emotionally involved in each episode and she fantasized about the TARDIS landing in our yard and picking her up to take her away on an adventure. So obviously I was going to have to make a Doctor Who cake. But she didn’t want a cake of the outside of the TARDIS, like is so often seen. She wanted the cake to be a setting of the inside of the TARDIS with her favorite character’s, Rose and the 10th Doctor, at the control panel.

The challenge was on. My original design was enormous and included rounded walls encircling the cake and beams and electrical elements, etc., etc. Fortunately my daughter is more of a realist than I am and convinced me that I didn’t have enough time to do all that and said she didn’t want me to spend every waking moment for a month working on the cake. So I scaled it down to something a bit more manageable. Don’t get me wrong, this cake still took many hours, over several weeks, to complete but I was still able to be a mom and wife without sacrificing all of my time. The final cake included everything that she felt was most important and still lit up in the dark, just like the real TARDIS control panel.

Unfortunately, I got so involved in this cake and focusing on all the details, that I didn’t take step by step pictures. So I thought I would just share some close up pictures of the final cake and try to explain some of the things I did. If you have questions on specific things, please feel free to ask them to me in the comments below and I will do the best I can to try and answer them.

The people were made out of modeling chocolate so I was able to make them a few weeks in advance. I am still really new to sculpting people so they are far from perfect but I did the best I could. I used this book, “How to Make Clay Characters”, by Maureen Carlson, and found it to be a great help for figuring out structural supports and sculpting facial features even though the book is designed for modeling with clay.

I started with the 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant on the show. I formed him on a skewer so that he could easily be inserted into the cake.

I tried to include all the important features on him, including his sonic screwdriver and his dirty Converse shoes. I made the sonic screwdriver out of gumpaste and attached a small blue dragee to the end of it.

His facial features make him look a little terrified but, like I said, I am new to sculpting people and still don’t really know what I am doing. The hardest part, aside from the face, was painting the pinstripes on his suit. I had to go very slow with a very steady hand (which I didn’t always have.). I used gel food coloring mixed with just a dab of vegetable oil and painted the stripes on with a very fine paintbrush.

One of my daughter’s favorite episodes of Doctor Who is “The Idiot’s Lantern” in which Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper, is dressed in a 50’s style outfit. I tried to simulate the outfit the best I could from the full shimmery pink skirt to the denim cropped jacket and the pink high heels.

I even included the pink sunglasses she carries around

And the french twist in the back of her hair.

One of my favorite pieces was the captain’s chair. I wish I had taken a picture of it before I attached Rose to it.

To make it sturdy enough to support a sculpted figure, I started by cutting out a small rectangle piece of foam board and using hot glue to attach a wooden dowel rod to the bottom of it. I then covered the board with modeling chocolate cushions and wrapped the dowel rod in grey modeling chocolate. Everything else on it was made from modeling chocolate. Once I was done I brushed some brown petal dust over it to give it an aged look. I used some melted chocolate to attach the back cushions on to the bottom cushions.

Next was the control panel. This was a lot of fun but also a bit overwhelming. I had printed out pictures of it to use as reference but there were so many strange knobs, dials, tubes, handles, and other features that I finally had to just quit trying to copy it and make it similar but not exact.

I started by making rice krispy treats and shaping them into a hamburger shape. I then covered them with some modeling chocolate so that it would have a smooth finish and then covered that with teal fondant. In order to support it, I cut out a circular piece of the fondant from the bottom of the panel and attached a circle piece of cake board, with some melted chocolate, in its place. It is hidden at the bottom so you can’t see it in the picture. I then cut a piece off of a plastic dowel rod and hot glued it to the cake board. I covered the dowel with gold modeling chocolate. All the weight was supported on that dowel so the gold legs around the panel are just for looks, they don’t actually hold it up.

All the rest of the knobs, dials and wires were made with modeling chocolate and attached with either melted chocolate or clear piping gel. I extruded brown modeling chocolate through a clay gun to make all the wires.

To give it an old, tarnished look I used a soft paint brush to brush silver, gold and bronze luster dusts in layers over the gold modeling chocolate. I did this sort of haphazardly so that they weren’t even and would look old and warn.

You will also notice that I added some texture by pressing a sand texture sheet along the vertical gold panels.

Of course I couldn’t forget the computer with the infamous screen saver and Post-It notes with gallifreyan writing. The computer was made out of modeling chocolate. The screensaver I found online and printed a picture of it onto edible paper then attached it to the computer with piping gel. I finished it off with tiny gumpaste Post-It notes and wrote on them with a fine tipped edible marker. I don’t understand gallifreyan so I just put some little symbols and lines down, hoping they would look like an alien language.

I try really hard to make my cakes completely edible, aside from a few wires, cake boards and dowels that are needed for supports. In order to make the clear lighted tube that protrudes from the control panel, I needed to accept the fact that I was going to have to use some plastic on this cake. Someone with more advance skills than I could probably figure out how to make a clear tube out of isomalt but I wasn’t sure how to do it. So I went on a hunt in my cake room and found some plastic tubes filled with sprinkles that I had bought at Halloween. They were designed to look like test tubes but they were the perfect diameter for what I needed. The only problem was that they were about half the length I needed. My solution was to give two of them to my husband who took them out to his shop and cut off the bottoms of each for me. I then attached them together with super glue. The final result was a long tube that had lids on both ends. I covered each of the lids with modeling chocolate. For the circles that wrap around the tube, I used circle cutters to cut them out then took a cutter the same diameter as the tube and cut the center out of each. I then took a knife, made a cut all the way across one side of the circle and wrapped it around the tube. I was able to gently press the cut edges back together once it was wrapped around and I made sure to position the seams in the back of the tube so they weren’t visible. I attached the tube to the top of the control panel with some melted chocolate.

It was really important to me that the tube light up. I was going to try to work in some electrical features when my youngest daughter came up with a brilliant idea. She suggested I just use glow sticks. That was perfect! The bracelet ones come as a straight stick (you are supposed to bend them into a bracelet) so I was able to get three blue glow stick bracelets and slide them in the tube to look like the long tube lights in the TARDIS. To activate glow sticks you have to crack them so I was just careful to keep their shape while I cracked them and I didn’t activate them until the morning of my daughter’s birthday. In order to keep the glow sticks evenly spaced apart, I used some pop dots from my scrapbooking supplies and stuck them in between at the very tops and bottoms of the sticks. Then I dropped them in the tube, attached some final chocolate wires and it was ready.

With all the pieces completed it was just a matter of covering the cake in fondant and adding an industrial looking floor. I decided to go with a marbled look to the fondant to give it a cloudy, mysterious look. To create this effect I added a little food coloring and kneaded just until I got a marbling look that I liked.

Before covering the cake in fondant I cut out a small circle of cake board, big enough for the plastic dowel from the control panel to rest on, and positioned it in the center of the cake. Underneath it I inserted dowel sticks for support. Once the cake was covered in fondant it left a bump in the center but it didn’t matter because the added height from the flooring would make it unnoticeable.

For the flooring I rolled out some dark grey fondant then laid a plastic needlework canvas on it and ran a fondant smoother over it, pressing so that it left indentions from the canvas. I then cut out the pieces individually and attached them next to each other so that they circled around the cake. To give a dirty look I brushed them with brown, green and black petal dust. I trimmed it off with a chocolate band wrapped around the cake. To create that band, I ran the modeling chocolate through my clay gun then gently flattened it with my finger and attached it to the cake with piping gel.

I refrigerated the whole cake overnight to make sure it was very firm then attached the characters and control panel the next morning.

The best part of the whole thing was seeing the excitement on my daughter’s face when I present the cake to her. She literally squealed in delight. All of us cake decorators know that that kind of reaction is the greatest payment of all.

After all the hard it work it was nice to finally cut into it and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Oh, one more thing I have to share is the flavor of the cake. My daughter is also a huge tea drinker so I found this recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cake with Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. I’m not much of a tea drinker but even I really liked the flavor. I will definitely be making it again.

Well, if you made it all the way to the end of this post then you are either a hardcore caker or Whovian. Either way, I hope you enjoyed my pictures and were able to understand my descriptions.

Until next time, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.

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  1. You always impress me with your creations but today I had 6 Dr. Who addicts (aged 16 down to 5) poring over every detail with me. Here are some of the comments they made to me:

    “It even lights up! Oh my gosh, that is SO COOL!”

    “It’s David Tennant! He’s the best one!”

    “Look at the control panel – can you really eat it?!”

    “She even did the sonic screwdriver! Your friend is so awesome!”

    and, from my 5-year-old, “I wish you could make Dr. Who cakes, Mom.”

  2. Hardcore Whovian here: loved, LOVED your cake. What a special thing to present to your daughter! Thank you for sharing your awesome tips in pie-baking too!

    1. Thanks for commenting Julia! I’m so glad you loved the cake. It was definitely a challenging one. I’m also happy to hear the pie tips were helpful. I love to hear that my posts are actually helpful and not just me wasting time in front of my computer. Haha!

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